Friday, November 13, 2015

Delaware Dawdling on Chesapeake Bay Commitments

Delaware Lags in Chesapeake Clean-up
The states in the Chesapeake Bay watershed have been working to drastically reduce the amount of pollutants and sediment they put into bay waterways by 2025. But some are moving more quickly than others. According to a recent report from the Environmental Protection Agency, Delaware is far off track to meet its halfway milestones in 2017 and at least part of the reason is the lack of money.

For example Bill Jester has created a farmland oasis in his corner of southwestern Delaware. It’s an inland, three-acre marsh, kind of kidney-shaped, in the middle of his cornfield. He did it with the help of Delaware's Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program, or CREP, which pays farmers to make eco-friendly upgrades that slow and filter run-off from crop lands.

Jester says the CREP folks "picked out the plants and the bushes" not only to help filter run-off, but to create habitat for local animals as well.

The annual payments he receives--$104 for an acre of grass, $135 for an acre of wetland-- came from a state fund set up in 1990. But the fund has dried up this year.
So the guy has an unusable wet area in the middle of his farm, and the government (sometimes) pays him $135 an acre not to do anything with it (he could drain it, and then farm it). In the US, corn crops yield roughly 150 bushels/acre, and corn sells for roughly $4 a bushel, so he's forgoing potentially $600 in income to let that go fallow. Of course, it might be expensive or difficult to drain and make suitable for growing, so I can't really evaluate the break even point.

Looks to me like if you want to pay farmers not to to farm, you need more money.

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